Fréjus cathedral, dedicated to Saint Leontius of Fréjus, has been the seat of the Bishop of Fréjus since the 5th century. It is located close to what appears to have been the Roman forum of Fréjus. Elements of Roman buildings, such as columns and walls, were incorporated into its structure.
Beginning in late Roman times, the town suffered a series of invasions and was pillaged by Goths, Burgundians, Franks, Lombards and Saracens. A plague carried away much of the population in the 6th century. In the 10th century Saracen pirates ravaged the coast.
The expulsion of the Saracens in 972 brought a period of relative peace. In the 12th century Fréjus was governed jointly by the Viscount of Fréjus, who had a castle near the port, and by the bishop, who lived beside the cathedral. The medieval town of Fréjus grew up around the cathedral.
The church is part of a complex of a larger fortified complex of medieval religious buildings dating from between the 5th and 13th centuries, comprising a parish church and a cathedral under one roof; a baptistery. There is also a bishop's residence, canonry and cloister.
The baptistery of the cathedral is a fine example of Merovingian architecture. It was built in the 5th century but hidden during later reconstruction, and was rediscovered in 1925. It is considered the oldest Christian structure in Provence, and one of the oldest in France.
The cathedral contains two naves, one of which belonged to the bishop, and the other to the local parish, side by side under the same roof, separated by arches. It appears that the naves were probably built at different times. The church of St. Étienne was probably begun in the 11th century, and enlarged in the 12th century, and became the parish church of the city. It consisted of a long nave under a barrel vault ceiling, divided on the north side into four parts by lateral arcades resting on massive rectangular pillars. The south wall, which connected the church to the cathedral of Notre Dame, was reconstructed in the 12th century to add greater strength and support for the new arcades that were constructed. The marks of the stonemasons can still be seen on the vault of the third traverse.
The nave and choir of the cathedral of Notre Dame were built next, in the 13th century, against the south wall of the church of St. Étienne. The first part constructed was the porch and bell tower, at the western end of the nave, between the baptistery and the nave. This part of the church, like the residence of the bishop at the other end, had a strongly military appearance, as if to stress the power of the bishop in temporal as well as spiritual affairs.
The cloister, which served as a place of meditation for the bishop and the dozen canons who served him, was built in the 13th century on the north side of the cathedral. It consists of pointed arches resting on double Corinthian columns. The decoration of the capitals of the columns features the key, the symbol of the bishops of Fréjus, and the fleur-de-lis, the symbol of Charles I of Anjou, the brother of Louis IX of France, who had become the Count of Provence in 1246.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.